Stop. Are You Missing This Essential Part of The Writing Process?
Your writing process probably looks a lot like this: planning, organization, writing, editing and revision.
But there’s an essential element that most of us overlook.
It’s a pause.
You know, stopping. Taking a break. Not looking at something.
This is an important but overlooked part of the process. Most of the time when I finish something, I want to send it off immediately to my editor, boss, or design to get it approved and have them sing my glowing praise.
Instead, I need to squelch that desire for another day. Or at least a few hours.
You need that break. I need a few hours to get some fresh air, take a walk, or just do something else. Because my writing is never as good as I think it is in the moment that I finish.
Having “fresh eyes” works, not necessarily because your eyes have been too stressed, but because your head has become too full trying to solve the immediate problem.
Once you pause, your revision and editing will be a lot stronger.
It’s easy to think that “pausing” is doing nothing…
But that’s not true. It’s valuable reflection time for your subconscious to make some new connections. To dream and expand a little bit.
Pausing is not for jumping ahead. It’s for the present. It’s for the now. It’s for doing something else, anything else and letting your writing sit, breathe, and take its own little break.
You’ll be surprised at how helpful this is.
But how is it different than procrastination?
Procrastination is a mini-form of giving up, dreading something before it event starts. Pausing is intentional, often after the hard work has been done. And depending on the project, a pause may only need to be a few minutes, or a longer period of time for a big project.
When I taught writing at a community college, my students usually didn’t like this part, so I had to make them pause without them knowing it. I always make them bring in their rough drafts a few days before an essay is due. Even that break–from printing it to waiting an hour before looking at it in class–serves as a pause. But then we mark it all up, and then they have more of a break after driving home or sleeping or whatever and looking at it the following day.
They’re pausing and not even knowing it. That’s all I’m doing in my workday as well. Trying to take some time for things to make sense again.
Pausing is not procrastinating.
It’s a break. And it’s one of the best parts of writing.
A version of this post first appeared at www.joshspilker.com